The Fall Guy Flopping Is The Beginning Of The End For Hollywood

By Jonathan Klotz | Published

ryan gosling

I’ll admit right here, at the very beginning, that the headline is, indeed, a bit of hyperbole. The Fall Guy is only one movie, and it can’t make or break anything, but it’s everything that the movie was supposed to be and what’s been happening around the film that disproves many current theories about the future of Hollywood. So no, it’s not the death of movies, but studios are still no closer to figuring out how to get audiences back into movie theaters.

Common Theories About Hollywood

Let’s tackle some of the more common theories about why the box office has been so low for the last few years, post-COVID, starting with one partially disproven by The Fall Guy: audiences are demanding original films instead of more massive franchise IPs that feel like homework. Yes, The Fall Guy is based on an 80s series, but no one remembers that, so it might as well be an original movie.

Mid-Budget And Arthouse Films Can’t Support Modern Theaters

Superhero fatigue, which claims that audiences are sick of seeing this massively interconnected comic book movie in theaters, is simply the modern version of Western fatigue from the 60s. The solution back then was for avant-garde art house films to take over the theaters, eventually resulting in films like Cool Hand Luke, Midnight Cowboy, and Easy Rider. Today, films like The Fall Guy, Civil War, and Challengers are supposed to represent something different for the audience, but they still aren’t biting.

The Exception

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Another popular theory, especially in the wake of the success of Top Gun: Maverick, is that “adults are returning to theaters.” While the Tom Cruise sequel, decades in the making, pulled in a lot of the older audience (55 and above) that had historically been a smaller share of the massive franchise tentpoles of the last 15 years, with one Christoper Nolan-sized exception, they’ve stayed away. Pundits thought The Fall Guy might also break this trend, as again, there were no capes, no spaceships, and it featured bonafide movie stars.

Modern Stars Aren’t The Draw

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There’s been a constant stream of articles and talking heads discussing how Hollywood can’t produce stars anymore like it did in the old days. First off, Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Tom Holland, and Austin Butler, to name a few, but none of that group has the same drawing power as the stars of the 90s. If The Fall Guy, starring Kevin Costner and Sandra Bullock, had been released in 1996, it would have made over $50 million during its opening weekend.

Stars Could Push Middling Movies To Profitability

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1996 was when Kevin Costner starred in Tin Cup, so he might not be a good example; after all, adjusted for inflation, his golf drama’s haul of $55 million would be $109 million today, or a third higher than where The Fall Guy stands right now ($70 million). Despite Ryan Gosling coming off the massive success of Barbie, movies can’t bring in crowds based on a star’s name alone, except, of course, for a dwindling amount of exceptions.

Margot Robbie Needed Barbie

ryan gosling

Look at the IMDB of the stars of last year’s biggest film, Barbie, and it’s clear audiences were showing up for Barbie and Ken and not Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Oppenheimer didn’t benefit from the Cillian Murphy walk-ups but rather from Christopher Nolan’s decades of success with one hit after another. Zendaya fans may have shown up for Challengers opening weekend, but they tend to be younger, which means they care more about streaming and other non-movie forms of entertainment on a daily basis.

Divided Attention


The Fall Guy, and again, it’s just the latest example of Hollywood taking a shot and missing horribly, isn’t competing only with Tarot or Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, but everything on streaming, YouTube creators, Twitch, video games, and every other form of entertainment that’s out there, almost all of which are cheaper and provide a better rate of return per dollar spent than sitting in a movie theater. Again, Zendaya is a massive star on social media, but even she can only work so many miracles to get the public to care about a tennis film in 2024.

The First To Go

Despite every theory and belief turning out wrong, movies aren’t going to go away anytime soon, with Disney planning on 2 massive Marvel movies each year, WB just announcing a new Lord of the Rings film, and low-budget horror films constantly earning 10x their budget. What will go away is the non-IP mid-budget movie and the adult dramas outside of award season (I hope you enjoyed The Holdovers in theaters last year!). The Fall Guy is the last of a dying breed, and calling a film with a $130 million budget “mid-budget” is another problem entirely, but the industry isn’t changing right now; it’s already changed.

Theaters Will Vanish, It’s Just A Matter Of Time

The Fall Guy won’t turn a profit in theaters; that’s already been determined, which means this year it’s joining other new releases, including Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, Madame Web, and even smaller-scale films that underperformed, including Drive-Away Dolls and The Book of Clarence. 2024 is, by the latest industry estimates, a stunning 17 percent under the last three pre-pandemic years (2017-2019), which is not good. Hollywood will survive, but our ability to choose from a wide selection of movies is going to go away, and it’s a question of whether theaters will vanish but when.